Fire Sprinkler Systems Application Handbook

Copper is the most economical choice for hydraulically calculated fire sprinkler systems because of the following unique properties of copper:

Superior Flow Characteristics

Copper Prevents Capacity Loss and Maximizes System Life

Copper's inherent resistance to corrosion minimizes scaling of tubing's inner surface. There is no need to oversize piping to compensate for diminished flow capacity, typical of steel pipe systems in which corrosion buildup restricts flow as systems age.

With copper, the full measure of a tube's internal diameter remains constant throughout the life of the system. The oxide film that naturally forms on copper tubing's inner surface does not flake off, but in fact acts as a protective barrier. The potential for clogging of fire sprinkler system components heads and small-diameter branch lines due to flaking is nonexistent. This also means a reduction in periodic maintenance flushing operations.

With copper's superior flow characteristics, system designers can incorporate several economies that help keep costs down:

  • A reduction in cross and feed main sizing, in many hydraulically-calculated systems.
  • An increase in the permitted number of sprinklers for copper lines of two-inch and larger, in pipe schedule systems.
  • The NFPA 13-approved use of ¾-inch copper tube in applications in which the minimum size requirement for steel is 1.

Copper, unlike plastics, does not deteriorate nor become brittle and subject to fatigue failures. Copper's water-carrying capacity remains effective throughout the life of the system under normal and extreme environmental conditions, such as wide temperature ranges and fire itself.

Back to Top

Installation Ease and Versatility

Copper, Easy to Install, Increases Design Options and Decreases Costs

From initial delivery to installation of the last sprinkler head, copper's light weight, ductility, and rigidity help get the job done quickly. Shipping, storing, and handling of copper offer none of the problems of steel's heavy weight or plastic's fragility.

Copper's ease of handling and ductility permit unmatched freedom of design and either shop or field fabrication. With easy-to-use portable hand tools, bending, cutting, and joining can be accomplished in limited-space areas.

A state-of-the-art tool for forming tee connections and outlets in a run of copper facilitates shop or field assembly by decreasing the number of joints in a system, reducing installation costs by as much as 25%.

With copper's rigidity and light weight, fewer hangers and supports are required than for plastic piping systems. No additional or special hold-downs are required to maintain alignment under pressure. In general, a single hanger suffices to support each horizontal length of tubing.

A full range of hangers and supports is available in various metals. In most cases, these do not require special plating or painting when used with copper tubing. Copper system fittings are typically smaller than those for steel or plastics, and are readily available in standard tube sizes and a variety of patterns.

Metallurgically joined by gas-fired torch or electric resistance soldering or brazing, copper's metallic-bonded joints are quickly executed and leak-free. Productivity on the job site is optimized particularly in buildings with Light Hazard Occupancies, whose designs often present severe space limitations for mechanical systems.

Back to Top

Innovative Possibilities

Copper Permits Combining Hydronic Systems

Using a water-source heat pump with a sprinkler system can provide a way to obtain better fire protection at lower cost than separate systems for heating, cooling, and fire protection. A single copper piping loop can supply water to both sprinkler system and heat pumps. Savings per square foot in building costs for a combined system can be great enough to pay for the entire sprinkler system.

Back to Top

Maximum Longevity with Minimum Maintenance

Copper Metal Ages to Care for Itself

Copper's self-protective oxidation obviates frequent system flushing to prevent clogging and corrosion buildup. A copper system does not require external protective painting. Copper is suitable for use in areas where temperatures exceed 120°F, e.g., in attic spaces.

In case of repairs or retrofit installations, copper's properties help expedite the work. System downtime is minimized. With copper's clean installation procedures, space occupancy is not interrupted. Virtually maintenance-free, copper offers years of trouble-free service, making it the material of choice for fire sprinkler systems in apartments, clubs/restaurants, dormitories, hospitals, hotels/motels, office buildings, schools, and residential construction.

Back to Top

Fire Sprinkler Handbooks

Design, Specification and Installation

The following CDA publications are intended for use by professional engineers and fire sprinkler system designers for designing, specifying and installing fire sprinkler systems:

  • Fire Sprinkler Systems (A4003-94/96) [PDF - 320Kb]
    A guide to designing and specifying soldered and brazed copper fire sprinkler systems. Covers standards and code acceptance, materials specifications, friction loss, flow capacity and installation.
  • Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems (A4010-92/94) [PDF - 90Kb]
    A design and installation guide for plumbing, mechanical and sprinkler contractors. Offers a simple but thorough explanation of NFPA Standards and expert tips on the use of copper tube for residential automatic fire sprinkler systems.
  • Copper vs. CPVC for Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems (A4026-92/98) [PDF - 7Mb]
    Evaluates copper tube and CPVC pipe for use in fire sprinkler systems in terms of installation requirements, properties, performance and cost.

For a complete list of all CDA publications, please visit our Publications section.

Back to Top